Origin & Evolution of Life

Evolution At The Origins Of Life?

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
February 26, 2024
Filed under , ,
Evolution At The Origins Of Life?
Three hypotheses of metabolic evolution, and where appropriate, a reference to iron sulfur cluster development is given. Top left: the retrograde hypothesis of metabolic evolution (A–D = molecules of a biosynthetic pathway, with A being the end product; E1–E3 = enzymes). Top right: Granick’s forward hypothesis of metabolic evolution (A–D = small molecules that are of a biosynthetic pathway, with A being the end product; E1–E3 = enzymes). Bottom: the patchwork hypothesis of metabolic evolution (A–C = precursor molecules; D–F = products of an enzymatic transformation; E1 represents the ancestral catalyst which endowed substrate promiscuity that was able to catalyze three different, but similar reactions; E2 represents the next generation of enzymes, in which the amino acid sequence has diverged slightly and substrate specificity and catalytic activity have been increased). — LIFE

The role of evolutionary theory at the origin of life is an extensively debated topic. The origin and early development of life is usually separated into a prebiotic phase and a protocellular phase, ultimately leading to the Last Universal Common Ancestor.

Most likely, the Last Universal Common Ancestor was subject to Darwinian evolution, but the question remains to what extent Darwinian evolution applies to the prebiotic and protocellular phases. In this review, we reflect on the current status of evolutionary theory in origins of life research by bringing together philosophy of science, evolutionary biology, and empirical research in the origins field.

We explore the various ways in which evolutionary theory has been extended beyond biology; we look at how these extensions apply to the prebiotic development of (proto)metabolism; and we investigate how the terminology from evolutionary theory is currently being employed in state-of-the-art origins of life research. In doing so, we identify some of the current obstacles to an evolutionary account of the origins of life, as well as open up new avenues of research.

Ludo L. J. Schoenmakers, Thomas A. C. Reydon and Andreas Kirschning
Life 2024, 14(2), 175; DOI: 10.3390/life14020175

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻